Posts belonging to Category Racial Perceptions in Sales



Race and Your Resume Part II – The Three P’s

We began to delve into this important issue in the post last week, and you can access it below this post.  We took a look at your most important job hunting tool and how you might want to “frame” yourself in your quest for a job.  This post will look at the forces that make a difference during the job search.

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The Ever-present 3Ps (Racial Perceptions, Racial Preferences, and Racial Prejudices) and Your Job Search!

These three influences define the environment for all sales professionals, and even more so for Black sales professionals as it represents the theater that must succeed in before getting gainful employment.

During the job search, everything revolves around your ability to get an interview.  Your job search can be difficult, made so by the large number of candidates that are applying and the fact that the resume reviewers (whether hiring managers or human resource professionals) have to make some quick decisions about who makes it to the next level because of the volume of applicants. In the last post we called the categories the A, B, C, & D (Discard) stacks, which is relevant whether it is paper or electronic applications through and applicant management system.

I call these imposing factors The 3Ps: Racial Perceptions, Racial Preferences, and Racial Prejudices! They make a sales job difficult.  Knowledge of them will serve you well.  Success and the reduction of frustration in your job hunt is dependent on an understanding these.

The 3Ps can have an effect, and sometimes an insidious effect, on the hiring process.  It can happen without the perpetrator even really thinking about it.

A brief definition of the 3Ps is as follows:

Racial Perceptions - are hard to change, and deep rooted.  They can come from many sources.  A person’s life experiences, the media, parents, friends, and the knowledge and ignorance of interaction or lack of interaction all form perceptions.  Perceptions are prevalent in all racial and ethnic groups.  We all have them; it is what we do with them that make all of the difference.

Racial Preferences - These are powerful.  They are not always meant to be deleterious to a particular racial group, yet have that effect when they are applied as the opportunity for fairness and equity can be  missed.  The hiring manager’s desire of whom they want to work with may be directly related to their personal relationship comfort.  Some preference may come from perceptions, and some from prejudice, but the net result is the same:  The sales professional who is capable may not be interviewed because they don’t quickly meet the preference of the selector.  Often it is because of a reluctance to do business with someone who is decidedly different than they are. It is no difference for any professional. Do you have any preferences? I will bet you do!

Racial Prejudice - renders any hiring situation difficult, if not impossible.  Racial prejudice does change the landscape.  You probably won’t change this attitude as you can do with racial perceptions and racial preference, and you may be able to spend your time better elsewhere.  If a buyer is prejudiced, the narrow-mindedness and patent unfairness will reduce, or destroy your chances of having a successful employment relationship, or keep it very short lived.

Back to These Stacks of Resumes as Discussed in Part I

Now, the simple fact is that any one of the 3Ps can change which stack your resume ends up in.  So at the risk of sounding over simplistic when it is to your advantage you should willingly disclose your race.  When you are in doubt, you should give consideration to ‘scrubbing’ your resume of racial indicators.  An employer will very possibly not be checking “LinkedIn” in the first stages, as there are too many candidates.

There are some points that you should note about resumes whether in stacks, or filed electronically in Applicant Management Systems that are important.  You can be the beneficiary in either of the following situations:

  • Many organizations have matured to the point that professional HR representatives do the things necessary to assure that there is diversity in the candidate pool. They are your assets in this situation.
  • Many employers purposely attempt to correct deficiencies in their workforce and sales force diversity with proactive hiring procedures in which they look for qualified minority candidates.

Make your resume the “teaser” that it should be. It will get you past the door, and into the mix. Most larger or more sophisticated organizations have human resource professionals who help to assure fairness.

Consider the next couple of points as a suggestion:

  • Include a tastefully done “head and shoulder” shot in your LinkedIn profile.  No screen shots form your computer, pay a few dollars if you don’t have one already.
  • Be judicious in your inclusion of information, but you may not need to “scrub” your resume.
  • Include positions of leadership for social organizations, but you might consider avoiding any controversial ones.  Include activities that have a leadership or business angle.  All else is just information.

My Personal Opinion

I think that you might already have a good idea that I have confidence in HR professionals.  For the most part they are serious minded about inclusion, diversity, and fairness in the process.  Often in the hiring process they are the “neck that turns the head” for the manager so the process does work.  They present diverse candidate pools and do their best to “watch” the process.

I believe that many managers have some preferences because they are human.  They constantly need to “true-up” these preferences with requisite fairness. When you exercise preferences and don’t balance it with fairness, you discriminate.  Exercising Racial Preference is discrimination.  Fairness and equity is what managment should be striving for.

As managers we have to avoid thinking of stereotypical sales professionals and sales personalities.  We need to be open to interviewing candidates of all races and backgrounds.  In the end, the decision on a candidate in good organizations is a decision process that includes HR, a hiring manager, and at the very least, that hiring manager’s manager.

Let me know what you think write me at Michael.parker@BlackSalesJournal.com.

In the Face of Prejudice…Will Your Employer Stand Behind You?

Sales will continue to be a difficult, but rewarding position.  We have had an opportunity to cover issues regarding the Black sales professional, the customer, and the employer, and their interactions in the course of business.  This is a complex relationship.

The effects of the 3Ps often have a role in the relationship.  For a refresher, the 3Ps play into the relationship in varying degrees; sometimes just below the surface, and sometimes playing a much more prominent role.  Today we will cover the reaction of the employer when prejudice rears its ugly head in the customer relationship, and how you might be affected.

The 3Ps Revisited

The 3Ps represent the untold in the workplace, beliefs, attitudes, and practices that can make it more difficult to succeed.  I will draw from the Inaugural Post of Black Sales Journal 11/2010, when they were first discussed.  Specifically, I termed it the “X” factor.

The 3Ps are:

  • Perceptions
  • Preferences
  • Prejudices

Perceptions are hard to change, yet they are based on ones background, mindset, and their seat in the arena of life.

Preferences, quite simply, are what a person leans toward in their relationships, where their comfort level lies.

Prejudices are deep, often fueled by perceptions and one’s past, are deep enough to be actionable and problematic.

We went on to talk about the effect of these on your customer in Black Sales Journal – Preference, Prejudice, Perceptions and Your Customer) .  This post covered how you can work with your customer when one or all of the 3Ps are evident.

The most striking statement in the post was that of the elements of the 3Ps, the most insidious is Prejudice. It is the most problematic of the 3Ps, mainly because there is little that can be done about it. Take a moment to review The Inaugural Post of Black Sales Journal and you will see that when it comes to the customer and the 3Ps, prejudice has little or no solutions.

When Prejudice Rears Its Ugly Head

There is always a possibility that a new sales relationship can go south because of Prejudice and its effects.  When and if things go wrong, you will be faced with being in a ‘sandwich’ between an employer who wants to satisfy a customer, continue to reap revenue, and hopefully, wants to support their sales professional.

Your employer’s reactions will obviously be affected by his or her own 3Ps, and you should expect that will be a factor (Black Sales Journal 12/30/2011 Preference, Perceptions, Prejudice, and Your Employer).  As a matter of fact, Prejudice sometimes is unmasked when customers and prospects are handed out to a Black sales professional.  No one has an idea of how receptive the customer will be to the new relationship unless the customer has made statements or taken actions that reveal it.  I would rather see this distribution of business to the Black sales representative than have the employer avoid giving them the best prospects to others in anticipation of a negative response.

When the customer reacts unfavorably, you will get an education, as you will get an opportunity to see whether your employer stands behind you.

An Real Example

I was a Black sales representative in B2B sales who was assigned an account to service and hopefully sell additional business.  I was more than willing to accept, and take a chance on, any reassigned account, as it was a way to increase sales revenue.  I needed the account badly.

The account was medium in size, and although complicated, well within my capabilities as a sales representative.  After much preparation I made my first visit to the account to make my introduction and discuss a change in pricing on the account.  My sales manager accompanied me on the call as making changing pricing at that time was a touchy issue.

After the introduction it was obvious that the call was not going to be warm and fuzzy.  The customer, who was an older individual, sat motionless with a foul expression even before the increase in price was discussed. Once pricing was discussed, the customer slammed his hand down on the desk “This is bull _ _ _ _ , you are trying to put me out of business!”.  “I will not accept this!  Get the hell out of my office!” he ranted.  We made a feeble attempt to explain the pricing but were told again to “Get out now!”

We gathered our materials and made a hasty retreat.  The buyer followed us through the open office, full of his employees, ranting at us.

On our drive back to the office, my manager and I discussed the call and it was obvious that neither of us expected the reaction, price increases were happening everywhere and ours was modest compared to others.

Upon arriving at the office the Regional Sales Manager (my sales managers boss) called me to discuss.  The customer had called him and advised that he was ticked  and that they were going to move their business if a change was not made.   I told the Regional Sales Manager that I had done everything possible on the pricing.  He said to me “It is not the pricing that he wants to change, he wants you off of the account.  He advised that he was not going to work with you based on your race.”  I knew from the conversation that he was sparing me the actual comments made.

Then came a statement that changed my life.  He indicated that he told the account that if that is the way you feel, “He is our sales representative, and if you work with us, you will work with Michael.  If not, we will, at your suggestion, terminate your account.”  The account ‘fired us’ later that day he indicated that he was moving his business and never would return.

It was a modest loss of business for my company but a huge boost in my confidence.  My company had stood behind me!  Quite frankly, I appreciate what the sales manager did and I will never forget it.  There is no greater endorsement of a professional than to have the support of their employer.

Conclusion

I know that this example is unlike others, yet in backing a business resource, a devoted employee, I tend to think that the employer made out well.

Every situation and every company are different.  When I managed sales professionals, my actions had a sympathy to the sales professional involved as well as the customer.

Lesson learned:  Customers are always important, but the customer is not always right!

We appreciate your responses. You can reach me at Michael.Parker@Blacksalesjournal.com.